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People Profile: Young Brain Cancer Survivor Stays Upbeat

Network - Spring 2010


By Laura Prus

Benjamin Chang believes anything is possible. Even after losing most of his vision to a brain tumor, he strives to inspire and encourage others.

Chang graduated from Stanford University in 2005 and was beginning a successful career in California as a mechanical engineer. Then, after a visit to his doctor in Houston two years later, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

Chang underwent surgery, then came to M. D. Anderson for a second opinion and radiation treatments. Though rarely able to leave his room, he was often encouraged by those around him. “The staff and volunteers tried to make M. D. Anderson a home rather than a hospital. They were all optimistic and tried to help in any way,” he says.

The tumor affected his optic nerves, causing Chang to lose most of his vision. Realizing he might lose the ability to bike or run — two of his favorite activities — Chang was frustrated and sad.

But despite his grief, Chang soon found perspective. “I’ve lost my good vision, but not my spirit,” he says.

He stayed positive as he continued speech therapy and physical therapy. He also had rehabilitation to help him learn new techniques to live his daily life and continue his career.

Providing hope

Chang later became involved in the Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Advisory Council through the Children's Cancer Hospital at M. D. Anderson. “I wanted to provide hope to other people and to cancer survivors,” Chang says.

Composed of former patients and employees, the council meets monthly to enhance the experiences of adolescent and young adult cancer patients. Since the group began in September 2009, Chang has enjoyed learning about other AYA patients’ experiences.

Through the council, Chang heard about LiveStrong Week, a week of fellowship presented by the Lance Armstrong Foundation and Canyon Ranch Institute that focuses on improving health for cancer prevention and survivorship.

Chang applied to and was accepted into the program. “They liked my application because it was about providing hope and inspiration to others,” he says.

The youngest participant at LiveStrong Week, Chang enjoyed sharing his experience with people of all ages. He learned about survivorship through the program’s wellness and nutrition classes, but the former athlete was most enthused when he found the gym was open all day.

He continues to be upbeat and positive. “I’ve learned to appreciate the small things in life and realize their beauty,” Chang says. “I try not to rush, and I appreciate what I’m doing. I used to just breathe and live. Now I experience my life.”

For more information about the AYA Advisory Council, call 713-792-6767 or 713-792-6194.


© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center